The Health Foundation responds to the Autumn Statement 2022

Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, said:

Today’s Autumn Statement will provide short term respite for a chronically overstretched health and care service but fails to tackle the underlying challenges facing the system.

While the NHS and social care have been offered some protection to 2025, most other public services still face significant real terms cuts. This, alongside falling living standards and rising unemployment, will only worsen the health of the population.

Additional funding for social care is welcome but after more than a decade of austerity will do little more than paper over the cracks of a broken system. And by shelving the planned changes to introduce a cap on care costs first recommended by the Dilnot Commission more than a decade ago, this government becomes the latest to break its promise to deliver the long-term reforms needed to improve the system. The government has chosen to prolong a major public policy failure that leaves older and disabled people without the care they need and many facing catastrophic costs.

The additional funding for the NHS will go some way to relieving the pressures on services. But we should be under no illusions about the scale of the task ahead. The 3.1 per cent annual increases over this parliament remain below long run average and the next 2 years still look very tough. They follow years of under-funding and a pandemic that has left staff exhausted and services at breaking point. While there are opportunities to increase productivity by improving the delivery of front-line care and making better use of data and technology, the overall level of funding is not enough to address the backlog and meet rising demand for services. Ministers and NHS leaders need to be honest with the public about this.  The Chancellor’s commitment to publish long term workforce projections is very welcome but doesn’t yet come with any additional funding or plan to expand the workforce.

Looking to the future, a new approach is needed that recognises the link between our health and wealth as a nation, provides the investment needed to improve public services, lowers the risk of chronic ill health for the most vulnerable, and reduces growing inequality. The UK has historically levied lower rates of tax and has consistently spent less on healthcare per person than other Western European nations. This needs to change to avoid a downward spiral of poorer health, declining services, and lower economic growth.


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